Morphogenesis and social norms

Critical realism pays particular attention to the enduring structures that underlie various social orders and processes. But as argued in an earlier post, CR also needs to be able to provide a vocabulary for describing the "subjective" and normative aspects of the social order. Margaret Archer's evolving theory of morphogenesis provides resources for discussing precisely …

DeLanda on historical ontology

A primary reason for thinking that assemblage theory is important is the fact that it offers new ways of thinking about social ontology. Instead of thinking of the social world as consisting of fixed entities and properties, we are invited to think of it as consisting of fluid agglomerations of diverse and heterogeneous processes. Manuel …

DeLanda on concepts, knobs, and phase transitions

image: Carnap's notes on Frege's Begriffsschrift seminar Part of Manuel DeLanda's work in Assemblage Theory is his hope to clarify and extend the way that we understand the ontological ideas associated with assemblage. He introduces a puzzling wrinkle into his discussion in this book -- the idea that a concept is "equipped with a variable …

A new exposition of assemblage theory

Manuel DeLanda has been a prominent exponent of the theory of assemblage for English-speaking readers for at least ten years. His 2006 book A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity has been discussed numerous times in this blog (link, link, link). DeLanda has now published a new treatment of the subject, Assemblage …

Assemblage theory as heuristic

In A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity Manuel DeLanda takes up one of Deleuze's key ideas. This is the idea of "assemblage", and it has been discussed here several times previously (link). (See DeLanda's extensive EGS lecture on assemblage theory below.) Here is a preliminary discussion of assemblage in New Philosophy of Society. …

ANT and the philosophy of social science

What does Actor-Network Theory have to add to the kinds of issues in the foundations of the social sciences that are of interest here? ANT is primarily associated with Bruno Latour (Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory, Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts), John Law, and Manuel DeLanda (A New Philosophy of Society: …

Latour’s invisible Paris

Almost the first words of Bruno Latour's Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory include this intriguing statement: This somewhat austere book can be read in parallel with the much lighter Bruno Latour and Emilie Hermant (1998),  Paris ville invisible , which tries to cover much of the same ground through a succession of photographic essays. It's …

Assemblage theory

Deleuze's theory (metaphor?) of assemblage as a way of thinking about the social world is an intriguing one. Fundamentally the idea is that there does not exist a fixed and stable ontology for the social world that proceeds from "atoms" to "molecules" to "materials". Rather, social formations are assemblages of other complex configurations, and they in turn …

Localism and assemblage theory

Several earlier posts have described the idea of "methodological localism" (post).  This is part of an argument I want to defend in support of the idea that we need new and better ways of thinking about the "stuff" of society. We need to thoroughly question and rethink the assumptions we make about social objects -- …

Composition of the social

Our social ontology needs to reflect the insight that complex social happenings are almost invariably composed of multiple causal processes rather than existing as unitary systems. The phenomena of a great social whole -- a city over a fifty-year span, a period of sustained social upheaval or revolution (Iran in the 1970s-1980s), an international trading …

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